2 Republicans introduce bill that would legalize medical marijuana

2 Republicans introduce bill that would legalize medical marijuana

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Two Republican lawmakers introduced legislation on Wednesday that would legalize medical marijuana in the state, an indication GOP lawmakers are warming to a proposal that has for years failed to become a reality in Wisconsin.

But the bill from Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, and Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, which would create a regulatory framework for medical marijuana, already faces stiff opposition from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.

The bill would allow for the cultivation, processing, testing and dispensing of cannabis to people with qualifying medical conditions who obtain a recommendation from a certified medical professional.

“Each one of us knows someone that has suffered through an illness,” Felzkowski said in a statement. “Medical marijuana is just another tool in the toolbox to help our suffering loved ones make it through the day with some semblance of normalcy.”

The effort is unlikely to pass both houses this session. While Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has said he is open to medical marijuana, Republicans in the state Senate are more skeptical.

“I personally oppose this bill and I don’t believe there are the votes in our caucus to pass it,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Vos, who is open to medical marijuana, said in a statement he appreciates Felzkowski’s effort but that “it’s clear that our caucus hasn’t reached a consensus.”

In an interview, Felzkowski said the bill is simply meant to spark a conversation about medical marijuana. She said her biggest goal this session is to get a public hearing on the bill so experts can weigh in. Vos declined to say whether he supports a public hearing on the bill.

Earlier this year, Republicans shot down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal in the state budget to decriminalize marijuana and legalize it for medical use.

In September, Republican Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, joined Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point, in the first bipartisan bill since 2001 to legalize medical marijuana, but the bill hasn’t advanced. The bill garnered support from three other Assembly Republicans: Todd Novak, of Dodgeville; Joel Kitchens, of Sturgeon Bay; and James Edming, of Glen Flora.

In a statement Wednesday, Erpenbach said he was pleased to see medical marijuana gain traction among Republicans but feared the bill would hinder access to medical marijuana.

Felzkowski said she prefers her bill to Erpenbach’s because it creates a stricter regulatory framework and could get more support from Republicans.

This spring, a bill by Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, which went further than Evers by proposing to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana, also failed to gain traction in the Capitol.

A Marquette Law School Poll released in April showed 59% of Wisconsinites believe marijuana use should be legal, while 83% say it should be legal for medical purposes with a doctor’s prescription.

The bill from Felzkowski and Bernier would create a regulatory commission with members appointed by the governor and majority and minority leaders in the Legislature. The bill would allow for Wisconsinites to obtain a medical card from a physician, physician’s assistant or advanced practice nurse.

To qualify for a medical card under the bill, the patient would need to have an established relationship with a medical professional and suffer from a qualifying medical condition including cancer, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder or seizure disorders.

Under the bill, only marijuana in the form of a liquid, oil, pill or tincture or in a form applied topically would be permitted.

Medical professionals would need to apply for certification from the newly created state regulatory commission to be able to recommend medical marijuana to their patients.

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